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Direct Response Marketing

Guest Opinion: Does Creative Matter?

23 Nov, 2009 By: Peter Aronow Response

Peter B. AronowTime and time again, inventors and marketers raise this question in an attempt to determine what role creative plays in marketing a product. As a creative director, I place it third on the short list of things that make or break a direct response campaign.

First, you have to offer a product that has the potential for broad appeal. In the case of DRTV, it has to appeal to a mass audience. Recently, when evaluating the potential of a product that appealed to more than 50 million people, or about 16 percent of the population, we determined that this market would be too small. It’s hard to imagine that 50 million people can be too few to successfully market a product to, but the economics of DRTV are very challenging.

Second, you need a compelling offer to get viewers to jot down the telephone number, pick up the phone, spend two-to-five minutes on the phone, take out their credit cards, and order. Determining what is the “right” offer can be critical, since offer variations account for differences of 50 percent or more, often enough to make a program work.

Third is creative. We have seen commercials with poor results re-tool and become winners. Often creative makes the difference between a $30 or $40 CPO (too high to roll-out) and a $15 or $20 CPO, resulting in a success. We have even seen it make the difference between CPOs of $50, $60 — even $100. What should a marketer do when approaching DRTV creative?

  • Understand the critical role it plays in your marketing program
  • Choose a reputable partner who will work with you to develop ideas, starting with a creative strategy and working from there — a good strategy focuses the team, clarifies the specifics and gets everyone on the same page
  • Explore all the options — do not assume there is only one approach
  • Be prepared to test and refine your creative to get it just right
  • Test offers: you need to get CPOs of $15 or $20 to get a program off the ground
  • Be willing to try something different — more and more, you need to stand out from the crowd (Take Go Daddy, for example, which established itself with one spot shown one time during the Super Bowl)
  • If your numbers are close, it’s the best use of your time and money to fine-tune your spot by working with your team
  • Never ‘fall in love’ with your product, your idea, your approach or your offer; the market will tell you what works and what doesn’t


Regarding spokespeople, there have been a few who have had tremendous success, are well regarded and have done amazing things for some products. Sometimes a pitch person is considered, and a few have generated outstanding results and made products household names (Billy Mays and OxiClean immediately come to mind).

But while it used to be the general rule of thumb that celebrities and/or pitch people “worked,” today that assumption cannot be relied on because they’ve been over-used and misused. I have never seen test results with and without those spokespeople to compare. And we all know that those spokespeople have added a significant cost to the bottom line. Did it pay? It’s difficult to know.

Finally, no matter what anyone tells you, do not get hooked on formulas. They sound nice and it’s compelling to want to find one and rely on it. But they really are not reliable and anyone who tells you otherwise is fooling himself or herself — and perhaps you. Yes, a lot of marketers use a problem-solution format successfully, but it does not always work, it is not always right and will not always get you the best CPO. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.


About the Author: Peter Aronow

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